“We have to stop making people ask for permission for everything they do.
You have to give entrepreneurs freedom.”
— R. Kungl
Why are there not more businesses in the Cree communities?
To begin to answer this question we interviewed Mr. Rolf Kungl, a consultant with the Haida Klootraining services, who has trained Native entrepreneurs across Canada.
“The number one problem in Native communities is politics,” said Kungl. “Red tape, no response.No support. It’s the same problems repeated in every Native community in the country. ”
There are definitely people out there in Creeland who have great ideas and are genuinelyinterested in starting a business. Why is it so difficult then for our Cree system to providesupport and encouragement to prospecting entrepreneurs? Is it not true that in order for ourCree Nation to be strong, we must develop a strong economy?
Kungl believes the following are blocks to business spirit in the communities. He says he does notmean to putdown any person, group or agency, but he wants people to understand and think aboutwhy there aren’t more businesses in Cree territory.
BLOCK #1: You have to have permission to start a business (Band resolution is required).
“Not even some of the deepest communist countries do that,” says Kungl. “Band resolutionsblock the opportunity of businesses happening.
It’s another bureaucratic hurdle. It dampens the spirit. What if the entrepreneur is not infavour with the political power structure? His chances are shot to hell. He’ll never get pastsquare one.”
BLOCK #2: The economic development agencies and corporations are not well perceived in thecommunities. “It’s not to knock them. Many people working in the agencies are very well-meaningand frustrated themselves,” says Kungl. “It’s just a fact.”
• Lack of expertise and experience in helping people;
• Lack of communication;
• The officers have too many bureaucratic tasks and can’t spend enough time helping people;
• People fear their ideas will be stolen. “I’ve not only heard about it,” says Kungl. “I’veseen it. They block someone else, and then they start that business themselves.”
BLOCK #3: The system is slow to respond.
Last summer, Kungl was hired by Eeyou Economic Group to give an “Entrepreneur workshop” to Creeswho were seriously thinking about starting a business. According to Kungl, the workshop was asuccess. There were plenty of folks ready to start a business. These people also had great ideas.In all, 156 people registered. By the end of the workshop, 105 people put together businessproposals and sent them to their respective bands or local economic development agencies.
• “Do you know how many of the 105 people received a response?” asked Kungl. “Five.”
BLOCK #4: Money: Tough stuff to get ahold of. It is very difficult for Native businesses to borrowmoney because people do not own the land they live on and banks cannot seize goods from a reserve.
BLOCK #5: Negativity towards business is very strong in the communities. Business people are seenas taking advantage, ripping people off. Profit is a dirty word. “It’s the old Hudson’s Baymentality,” says Kungl, adding that Natives are even harder on their own people. “When my partner(who is Native) goes to communities, he is not as well perceived as I am (because I’m white).”
BLOCK #6: People give up too easily. Perhaps because there are not enough role models.
BLOCK #7: Lack of commercial space.
“I’ve worked in 240 Native communites across the country, and these blocks are repeated straightacross the board anywhere in Canada, ” says Kungl.